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Belgium

Belgium - US Consular Information Sheet
October 03, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Belgium is a highly developed and stable democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read the Department of State Background N
tes on Belgium for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Belgium is a party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Belgium for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. Sufficient funds and a return airline ticket are required. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet. For further information concerning entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Belgium at 3330 Garfield Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 333-6900; or one of the Belgian Consulates General in Atlanta, Los Angeles, or New York.Visit the Belgian Embassy web site at http://www.diplobel.org/usa for the most current visa information.
Belgian law requires that everyone carry some form of official identification at all times, which must be displayed upon request to any Belgian police official. A U.S. passport suffices for these purposes.
See the section on Special Circumstances for information on new business visitor and employee registration requirements.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Belgium remains largely free of terrorist incidents. Belgian law enforcement and security officials, in close cooperation with neighboring countries, maintain a solid anti-terrorism effort and a peaceful environment for tourists and business. However, like other countries that are members of the Schengen Agreement on free cross-border movement, Belgium’s open borders with its European neighbors allow the possibility for terrorist groups to enter/exit the country with anonymity.
Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations in Belgium, and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, situations may develop that could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas where public demonstrations are taking place.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Belgium remains relatively free of violent crime, but low-level street crime is common. Visitors should always be watchful and aware of their surroundings, however, because muggings, purse snatchings, and pickpocketing occur frequently, particularly in the major cities. Transportation hubs like the Metro (subway) and train stations are also frequented by thieves who take advantage of disoriented travelers. In Brussels, pickpocketing, purse snatching, and theft of light luggage and laptops are common at the three major train stations -- the North Station (Noordstation or Gare du Nord), the Central Station (Centraal Station or Gare Central) and especially at the South Station (Zuidstation or Gare du Midi). The latter is a primary international train hub, and travelers are advised to pay very close attention to their personal belongings when in the station. Common ploys are to distract the victim by spraying shaving cream or another substance on his or her back or asking for directions while an accomplice steals the luggage. It is a good idea to remain in physical contact with hand luggage at all times, and not to place carry-on luggage on overhead racks in trains.
Another growing problem, especially in Brussels, is theft from vehicles, both moving and parked. Do not leave valuables in plain sight where a thief may spot them. Thieves will sometimes position themselves at stop lights to scan for valuables in stopped cars. If they see a purse or other valuable item they break the window and steal the item before the victim can even react. Expensive car stereos and GPS navigational devices left in plain sight are often stolen from parked cars. Always drive with windows up and doors locked.
Travelers to Brussels should be aware that small groups of young men sometimes prey on unwary tourists, usually at night and often in Metro stations. Items such as expensive mobile phones and MP3 players are often the target. Travelers should carry only a minimum amount of cash, credit cards, and personal identification. Wearing expensive jewelry and watches is discouraged.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Good medical facilities are widely available in Belgium. The large university hospitals can handle almost every medical problem. Hospitals in Brussels and Flemish-speaking Flanders will probably have English-speaking staff. Hospitals in French-speaking Wallonia may not have staff members who are fluent in English, however. The Embassy Consular Section maintains a list of English-speaking doctors, which can be found on the Embassy web site at http://brussels.usembassy.gov/medical_facilities.html.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Belgium is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Belgian urban highways are generally well built and maintained with extensive lighting systems, but rain and fog often reduce visibility. Rural roads are less likely to be illuminated at night. Belgian rules for right-of-way differ from those in the U.S., and new drivers should thoroughly understand these rules before driving in Belgium. For instance, traffic coming from the right generally has priority at uncontrolled intersections and roundabouts, even if coming from a smaller street. The maximum speed limit on Belgian highways is 120 kilometers (72 miles) per hour, but is not always posted except at Belgium’s borders and on roads leaving major airports. The maximum speed in urban areas is normally 50 km (30 miles) per hour. While Belgian authorities strictly enforce speed limits, many Belgians still drive significantly faster than the posted limit. Claims of ignorance may not prevent a significant fine for speeding, which can also lead to the vehicle’s being impounded if the driver is unable to pay the fine on the spot. Belgian police also conduct breath analysis checks for alcohol use, particularly at night and during major holidays.
Roadside assistance and information on road conditions are available in English from Touring Mobilis, tel: 0900 10280. Belgian police will also provide information on road conditions, tel: 02-642-6666. Emergency services are efficient and responsive. By phone within Belgium, for police emergencies dial 101 and for all other emergencies,112.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Belgium’s national tourist office at http://www.visitbelgium.com/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Belgium’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Belgium’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: While most forms of monetary transactions are available (cash, credit cards), U.S. money orders cannot be negotiated in Belgium. Personal checks may only be cleared through a bank at which a person holds an account and clearance can take from two to four weeks. Banks and exchange facilities may refuse U.S. dollar denominations of $50 and $100 if they are not equipped with devices to identify counterfeit currency. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are widespread in Belgium and accept most U.S. ATM cards to withdraw funds. Travelers seeking to purchase Euros are more likely to find a more favorable exchange rate at banks than at money exchange facilities located at tourist locations, train stations, and airports. Please see our Customs Information.
Non-EU citizens visiting Belgium and staying in a private residence are required by Belgian law to register with local Commune authorities within three days of their arrival. Any change in visa or resident status must also be requested through Commune authorities and must be completed prior to the expiration of the current status. Given the requirements to change status in Belgium, it is nearly impossible to do so within the 90 days permitted to remain in Belgium without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.
BUSINESS VISITOR AND EMPLOYEE REGISTRATION REQUIREMENT: Since April 1, 2007 non-Belgian employers and self-employed persons or their employees who carry out short term assignments in Belgium must declare these activities in advance.
This mandatory "Limosa" declaration applies to: (1) Employees and apprentices, who come to Belgium to execute certain temporary work and who, because of the nature of their short term assignment, are not subject to the Belgian social security system; (2) Self-employed people and self-employed apprentices who come to work in Belgium temporarily, irrespective of whether they are subject to the Belgian social security system.
Some exceptions to this general obligation exist. Certain persons may be exempted, especially for short-term assignments. For more information about the Limosa declaration, visit http://www.limosa.be.
For more information about working in Belgium, please see http://www.employment.belgium.be/home.aspx.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Belgian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Belgium are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Belgium are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Belgium. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Brussels is located at 25 Boulevard du Regent. The telephone number from the U.S. is 011-32-2-508-2111. Within Belgium, the telephone number is 02-508-2111. The Embassy’s fax number is 02-511-2725. The Consular Section’s fax number is 02-513-0409. The American Citizen Services Unit of the Consular Section is open from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for American and Belgian holidays. Further information can be obtained at the Embassy’s web site at http://belgium.usembassy.gov/
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Belgium dated March 13, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 17 May 2019
Source: [in French, trans. Corr.SB, edited]

An additional patient, the 19th, was admitted to the hospital in Flanders, [East Flanders province] suffering from legionellosis.

This case comes in addition to the 18 others who have been exposed to _Legionella_ bacteria in the Evergem area [East Flanders], right next to Ghent, and who developed legionnaires' disease, a lung disease that is not transmitted from human to human.

Of the total of 19 patients, 2 men died: one Monday night [20 May 2019] and the other [Wed 22 May 2019], in 2 different Ghent hospitals.

The exact source of _Legionella_ causing the [legionellosis] outbreak in the region has not yet been located. The bacterium normally contaminates people via inhalation of water vapor or micro-droplets, but many exposed individuals do not develop disease.
========================
[This news report above adds 3 cases since the last report posted by ProMED-mail (Legionellosis - Europe (01): Belgium (OV) http://promedmail.org/post/20190514.6468996) for a total now of 19 cases. At the time of the initial report, cooling towers in the vicinity of the Ghent Canal were suspected to be the source of this outbreak. The Ghent Canal separates the town of Evergem, where 7 cases occurred, from the town of Oostakker, where 2 cases occurred. The Ghent-Terneuzen Canal, links Ghent in Belgium to the port of Terneuzen in the Netherlands, thereby providing Ghent with access to the sea (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent-Terneuzen_Canal>).

A map showing the location of Evergem and this area can be found at
<https://goo.gl/maps/y9Z1tQzbKJa1NkSm7>.

The news report above fails to state where the new cases reside, if _Legionella_ genotypes of the clinical isolates match each other, which would indicate a common source outbreak, and the results of environmental testing for _Legionella_. We await the results of the ongoing investigation. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Belgium:
Date: Tue 14 May 2019, 8:24 AM
Source: Brussels Times [edited]

One person has died from [legionellosis] in Evergem, [a municipality] near Ghent, after health authorities declared an outbreak of the bacteria in the region, which accelerated at the weekend. The patient died in Ghent's University Hospital on [Mon 13 May 2019] evening, The Flanders Agency for Care and Health announced in a statement.

The agency has currently identified at least 16 cases after it was reported that 11 infected people had been admitted to the hospital late last week.

The most recently reported cases have prompted authorities to warn that the source of the infection, which has not yet been identified, may still be active. A total of 7 of the 16 cases originated in Evergem or in bordering towns, leading authorities to say that there are strong indications that the source of the infection is in Evergem's vicinity.

The _Legionella_ bacteria develop primarily in warm and stagnant water and can lead to Legionnaires' disease or Pontiac fever.

The Flanders Agency for Care and Health said in a statement that they are examining water samples from 17 companies in order to identify the source of contamination. A spokesperson for the agency said that [legionellosis] symptoms can take up to 17 days to appear, but that most people manifested symptoms within 10 days.
------------------------------------------
Communicated by:
Dr. Juan Angel Ferrer Azcona
Area de Prevencion de Legionella
microSERVICES
Benidorm, Alicante, Spain
<ferrer@microservices.es>
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2019 11:38:03 +0100
By Alex PIGMAN

Brussels, Feb 13, 2019 (AFP) - Belgium slowed to a standstill on Wednesday as a national strike closed airports, shuttered businesses and caused major disruption to railways.   The strike, called by three unions, severely disrupted the country's public transport, particularly in Brussels, where a meeting of NATO ministers was set to take place.  The strike affected post offices, schools, hospitals, waste collection, but also companies and shopping centres.

In the Dutch-speaking city of Ghent, two protestors were slightly injured when a vehicle forced a picket line, local police told AFP. The driver was arrested.    "The movement is well followed everywhere and in all sectors," said CSC union general secretary Marie-Helene Ska on Bel-RTL radio.   The national railway company expected half the trains nation-wide would be cancelled because of the movement, but high speed train traffic to London and Paris should be mostly spared.

The air traffic control agency, Skeyes, announced on Tuesday that it would not allow any flights to or from the country because it could not determine with certainty which employees would come to work.    No aircraft flying below 8,000 metres altitude would be allowed to fly over the country, the agency warned.   Skeyes was not able to say how many flights or how many passengers would be affected.    "Even if the terminal will remain open, we ask all passengers not to go to the airport," said Brussels Zaventem airport, the largest in Belgium, in a statement.   Charleroi airport, the second largest in Belgium and a local hub for low-cost giant Ryanair, had already announced its closure.    The German carrier TUI fly will operate its scheduled Belgian flights from the nearest French and Dutch airports.

Unions are calling for higher wages, benefits and pensions, and better end-of-career conditions. The movement is putting pressure on the right-of-centre government ahead of general elections in May.   Brussels, home to NATO, will be hosting a meeting of defence ministers that day, with officials from throughout the transatlantic military alliance converging on the city.   Dozens of supermarkets were closed, mainly in the French-speaking part of Belgium.   "Forty-four supermarkets are closed and we hope that the situation does not change during the day," said Carrefour spokesman Baptiste van Outryve to Belga news agency.   The last general strike in Belgium was in December 2014.
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2019 16:02:19 +0100

Brussels, Feb 8, 2019 (AFP) - Belgium's biggest carrier Brussels Airlines said it had cancelled all of its flights out of the Belgian capital on Wednesday due to a national strike.   Brussels Airlines is "eliminating its entire 222-flight schedule. The travel itineraries of more than 16,000 passengers are impacted," the Lufthansa subsidiary said in a statement on Friday.

Flights from German carrier TUI fly will also be diverted out of Belgium to airports in neighbouring France and the Netherlands, the company told the Belga news agency.   Unions warned De Morgen newspaper that all commercial flights may be forced out of Belgian airspace Wednesday if air traffic controllers joined the action.

Several Belgian unions are demanding salary hikes for all sectors of the economy, with the whole country expected to be at a standstill on Wednesday.   Brussels, home to NATO, will be hosting a defence ministers meeting that day, with officials from throughout the transatlantic military alliance converging on the city.
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2018 11:19:43 +0100

Brussels, Oct 29, 2018 (AFP) - A baggage handlers strike at Brussels international airport forced the cancellation of 130 out of 630 flights scheduled for Monday, the fifth day of the dispute, an official said.   Handlers at Belgian firm Aviapartner went on strike last Thursday over demands for better working conditions at Brussels-Zaventem airport, with 100 flights cancelled on Friday and still more over the weekend.

An official at Brussels airport told AFP 130 out of the 630 flights scheduled for Monday had been cancelled.   The Belga news agency said talks over the weekend failed to resolve the dispute and new discussions were scheduled for Monday.   The first day of the strike came at the end of a school holiday in neighbouring Netherlands and the start of one in Belgium that coincides with All Saints Day on November 1.

Brussels airport is the largest in Belgium, with nearly 25 million passengers passing through last year, compared to seven million at Charleroi airport in the south, the country's second biggest.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

31st May 2019

A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted Friday, spewing a plume of ash and smoke more than 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky. Mount Agung, about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life in 2017, sometimes grounding flights and forcing residents to flee their homes.
Mount Agung is about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta

The latest shortly before noon on Friday shot a cloud of volcanic ash high into the sky, but caused no disruption to flights, Indonesia's geological agency said.  Agung remained at the second highest danger warning level, and there is a four-kilometre no-go zone around the crater.

Last summer, dozens of flights were cancelled after Agung erupted, while tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after an eruption in 2017.

The last major eruption of Agung in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.

31st May 2019

Heatwaves across India have exacted heavy casualties this year, including dozens of deaths by sunstroke and other heat-related causes. The deaths have been mainly reported from states like Maharashtra (particularly Vidarbha), Andhra Pradesh (mainly Rayalseema) and Telangana, due to the temperature extremes in these regions. What's worrying is, a study suggests that the heatwave conditions are likely to increase from next year and continue till 2064 because of El Niño Modoki and depletion in soil moisture. Here's how the heatwave is taking a toll in the above states.

Maharashtra

Parts of Maharashtra have been reeling under high temperatures accompanied by severe heatwave condition during this summer. According to a report in The Times Of India, a 50-year old man in Beed succumbed to death because of heatstroke recently, taking the overall number to 8. Reports show a total of 456 cases of heat-related illnesses in Maharashtra this summer. Last year, the number of cases reported was 568. However, the death toll this year is more than last year's figure of 2 victims.

Regions like Nagpur and Akola show the most number of deaths and illnesses in the Vidarbha region. About 163 cases of heat-related illness were reported in Nagpur and 76 ailments were reported in Latur region. Recently, Chandrapur in Maharashtra (which lies 150km south of Nagpur) registered a day temperature of 48°C, the highest recorded in India this summer.

Andhra Pradesh

Parts of Andhra Pradesh have been experiencing temperatures of 45°C and more since the last few days. These conditions have persisted in the state after the heavy rains caused by Cyclone Fani.

Two women going on a two-wheeler and covered themselves with scarfs to protect themselves from the heat wave, in Vijayawada
(Mahesh G, TOI, BCCL, Vijayawada.)

Three people have died in Andhra Pradesh due to heat-related causes this year. Also, 433 people have been diagnosed with heatstroke. Earlier this month, electrical transformers had blown up in many parts of Krishna and Guntur districts, disrupting power supply for more than five hours and intensifying the effects of heatwave conditions and the severe temperatures.

In 2015, Andhra Pradesh experienced the most number of heat deaths in the country: 1,369 people died that year from heat-related illnesses.

Telangana

Seventeen people have succumbed in Telangana over the last 22 days. However, the number of unconfirmed deaths is expected to be higher. The region saw 541 heat-related deaths in 2015, and 27 in 2018. The farmers and those who work in the sun are usually the ones to be affected the most by high temperatures and heatwave conditions.

As heat blankets the country, make sure you stay protected. Follow official guidelines and do not step out in the Sun, especially in the afternoon hours, unless absolutely necessary.

(With inputs from The Times Of India.)

11th June 2019
https://afro.who.int/news/confirmation-case-ebola-virus-disease-uganda

Kampala, 11 June 2019 - The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed a case of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda. Although there have been numerous previous alerts, this is the first confirmed case in Uganda during the Ebola outbreak on-going in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The confirmed case is a 5-year-old child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who travelled with his family on 9th June 2019. The child and his family entered the country through Bwera Border post and sought medical care at Kagando hospital where health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of illness. The child was transferred to Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit for management. The confirmation was made today by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI). The child is under care and receiving supportive treatment at Bwera ETU, and contacts are being monitored.

The Ministry of Health and WHO have dispatched a Rapid Response Team to Kasese to identify other people who may be at risk, and ensure they are monitored and provided with care if they also become ill. Uganda has previous experience managing Ebola outbreaks. In preparation for a possible imported case during the current outbreak in DRC, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4700 health workers in 165 health facilities (including in the facility where the child is being cared for); disease monitoring has been intensified; and health workers trained on recognizing symptoms of the disease. Ebola Treatment Units are in place.

In response to this case, the Ministry is intensifying community education, psychosocial support and will undertake vaccination for those who have come into contact with the patient and at-risk health workers who were not previously vaccinated.  

Ebola virus disease is a severe illness that is spread through contact with the body fluids of a person sick with the disease (fluids such as vomit, faeces or blood). First symptoms are similar to other diseases and thus require vigilant health and community workers, especially in areas where there is Ebola transmission, to help make diagnosis. Symptoms can be sudden and include:
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
People who have been in contact with someone with the disease are offered vaccine and asked to monitor their health for 21 days to ensure they do not become ill as well.

The investigational vaccine being used in DRC and by health and frontline workers in Uganda has so far been effective in protecting people from developing the disease, and has helped those who do develop the disease to have a better chance of survival. The Ministry strongly urges those who are identified as contacts to take this protective measure.

Investigational therapeutics and advanced supportive care, along with patients seeking care early once they have symptoms, increase chances of survival.

The Ministry of Health has taken the following actions to contain spread of the disease in the country:
  • The District administration and local councils in the affected area have been directed to ensure that any person with Ebola signs and symptoms in the community is reported to the health workers immediately and provided with advice and testing.
  • The Ministry of Health is setting up units in the affected district and at referral hospitals to handle cases if they occur.
  • •Social mobilization activities are being intensified and education materials are being disseminated.

There are no confirmed cases in any other parts of the country.

The Ministry is working with international partners coordinated by the World Health Organization.

The Ministry of Health appeals to the general public and health workers to work together closely, to be vigilant and support each other in helping anyone with symptoms to receive care quickly. The Ministry will continue to update the general public on progress and new developments.
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2019 14:24:43 +0200

Lima, June 10, 2019 (AFP) - Peru has declared a health emergency in five regions, including Lima, after the deaths of at least four people linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system.   Health Minister Zulema Tomas said Sunday that in addition to the deaths there were currently 206 cases of the disease.   "We have an outbreak, there has been a brusque increase" since June 5, Tomas said on state-run TV Peru, adding that health authorities were taking steps to control and contain the disease.

While the syndrome is not contagious, a 90-day health emergency was declared because the current cases "have unusual and atypical characteristics that require rapid or immediate initial treatment," Peru's Institute of Neurological Sciences said.   The precise cause of the disorder is unknown, but most cases develop after a person has been sick with diarrhoea or a respiratory infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says its research suggests that the syndrome is "strongly associated" with the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness.   The regions affected by GBS include three on the country's northern coast -- Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad -- tourist destinations known for their archaeological sites and beaches.   Also included was the central region of Junin and Lima, which has nine million inhabitants.   Two deaths were reported in Piura, one in La Libertad and another in Junin.
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2019 16:39:03 +0200

Madrid, June 10, 2019 (AFP) - Three tourists have fallen from their hotel balconies in Spain's Balearic Islands in recent days, one of them dying on impact, police said Monday as the summer season in the party archipelago begins.   The incidents came as Britain's foreign office warned holidaymakers heading to Spain against "balcony falls" and asked them not to "take unnecessary risks... particularly if you're under the influence of drink or drugs."   On Friday in Magaluf, a party resort notorious for its booze-fuelled tourism, a 19-year-old British man fell to his death from the second floor of his hotel, Spain's Civil Guard police force said.

A spokesman said police were looking at two theories -- either "he threw himself off voluntarily, or he fell by accident."   He did not know whether the victim had consumed drugs or alcohol.   On Thursday, a 35-year-old German man fell from the second floor of his hotel too, this time in Palma de Majorca, and was seriously injured, police said.   A source close to the probe, who declined to be named, said the man had drunk, dozed off, woken up and subsequently fallen from the balcony, possibly disorientated.   And on Monday, an Australian man in his early thirties fell from the second floor of his hotel in Ibiza and was seriously hurt, police said, without giving further details.

Balcony falls happen every year in the Balearic Islands and other party resorts in Spain, most of them due to excessive drinking or drug-taking/   Some are accidental slips, while others happen when tourists miss while trying to jump into pools or onto another balcony -- a practice known as "balconing."   The British foreign office's online travel advice for Spain has an entire section warning against "balcony falls".   "There have been a number of very serious accidents (some fatal) as a result of falls from balconies," says the website.    "Many of these incidents have involved British nationals and have had a devastating impact on those involved and their loved ones."
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2019 06:44:54 +0200

Sydney, June 10, 2019 (AFP) - Australian police said Monday they were scouring bushland for a Belgian teenage tourist missing in a popular surf town for more than a week.   Theo Hayez, an 18-year-old backpacker, was last seen on May 31 at a hotel in the coastal tourist town of Byron Bay -- some 750 kilometres (470 miles) north of Sydney -- New South Wales state police said.   "We have a large amount of resources searching... in bushland that is towards the east and northeast of the town," police Chief Inspector Matthew Kehoe said in a statement.   "We are advised that this disappearance is completely out of character for him."   Police said they were alerted to his disappearance on Thursday after he failed to return to a hostel he was staying in.   Hayez's passport and personal belongings were all left at the hostel, and police believe he had not made any financial transactions since his disappearance or used his mobile phone.
Date: Sat 8 Jun 2019
Source: New Jersey 101.5 [edited]

The potentially deadly Powassan tick-borne virus has been confirmed in 2 Sussex county residents, one of whom died last month [May 2019], state health officials confirmed [Sat 8 Jun 2019].

The Powassan virus is spread by the deer tick [_Ixodes scapularis_]. The illness is rarer than Lyme disease, which is also spread by the tick, but 10% of people who contract the [Powassan virus] illness die from it.

A Department of Health official on [Sat 8 Jun 2019] said that the department had not determined the cause of death for the patient who died last month [May 2019] but said that lab results this week [week of 3 Jun 2019] confirmed that he had the virus.

A 2nd victim continues to recover at home.

Symptoms of the virus include brain swelling, meningitis, fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, trouble speaking, and memory loss. Symptoms can appear a week to a month after a tick bite, although some people show no symptoms and do not require treatment.

There is no vaccine or cure for the disease. Treatment includes hospitalization, support for breathing, and intravenous fluids.

Prevention involves the same precautions that should be taken to avoid Lyme disease: avoid wooded areas with tall grasses, use insect repellent while outdoors, and check for ticks after being outdoors.

Powassan [virus] -- first discovered in Powassan, Ontario, in 1958 -- has been confirmed in recent years in New Jersey, with one case each in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and 4 cases in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. The cases were reported in Sussex, Warren, Morris, and Essex counties.

Between 2008 and 2017, there were 125 confirmed cases in the entire country and 9 deaths.

A person who said they were close to the man who died last month [May 2019] posted on Facebook that the man was bitten in the arm by a tick while gardening and fell ill about 2 weeks later. The Facebook post said that there was no bull's-eye mark around the bite -- a known tell-tale sign for Lyme infection. About a day before he was hospitalized, the man reported feeling like he was coming down with a cold and had a high fever.

State health department's tip sheet for preventing Powassan [virus infection]:
- avoid contact with ticks by avoiding wooded areas with high grass;
- when hiking, stay on the center of the trail;
- picnic in areas away from wooded and bushy areas;
- keep children on playground equipment and away from tall grass and shrubs;
- when outdoors, apply insect repellents;
- wear light-colored clothes so it is easy to see and remove ticks;
- wear long-sleeve shirts and pants;
- tuck long pants into socks so ticks cannot crawl under pants;
- do tick checks every couple hours while outdoors and before coming indoors;
- if you see a tick during tick checks, remove it right away;
- keep grass mowed short;
- keep children's toys, playground equipment, pools, and lawn furniture at least 15 feet [4.6 m] from wooded areas;
- create a woodchip or mulch border between your yard and wooded areas;
- keep areas under bird feeders and pet dishes clean, so they do not attract animals that may carry ticks;
- keep trash in closed containers or areas so it does not attract animals that may carry ticks.  [Byline: Sergio Bichao]
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[Powassan virus is endemic in New Jersey, and cases occur there sporadically. The tick vector is the deer tick, _Ixodes scapularis_. Humans become infected with POWV during spillover transmission from the natural transmission cycles. In humans, POWV can be a causative agent of a severe neuroinvasive illness, with 50% of survivors displaying long-term neurological sequelae. Individuals living or visiting areas where the deer tick occurs, should follow the above recommendations to avoid tick bites. If a tick is found feeding, it should be removed with forceps or tweezers grasping the tick at skin level and then gentle, constant force applied. The tick should never be removed by grasping it with thumb and forefinger, as squeezing the tick may cause inoculation of contents containing the pathogenic agent into the feeding site.

POWV was recognized as a human pathogen in 1958, when a young boy died of severe encephalitis in Powassan, Ontario, Canada. In that case, POWV was isolated from the brain autopsy. There are 2 distinct genetic lineages now recognized: POWV (lineage I) and deer tick virus (lineage II). Since the index case in 1958, over 100 human cases of POWV have been reported, with an apparent rise in disease incidence in the past 16 years. This recent increase in cases may represent a true emergence of POWV in regions where the tick vector species are prevalent, or it could represent an increase in POWV surveillance and diagnosis. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of New Jersey, United States:
New Jersey county map:
Date: 6 Jun 2019
Source: Washington Post [edited]

Dominican government officials released more-detailed autopsy results on Thursday [6 Jun 2019] for 3 American tourists who died at adjacent beach resorts owned by the same hotel company during the last week of May 2019.

All 3 victims experienced eerily similar symptoms and internal trauma before their deaths, according to a news release from Dominican authorities. Pathologists said autopsies showed the 3 had internal haemorrhaging, pulmonary oedema, and enlarged hearts.

Toxicology reports are pending [These are likely to be the most interesting. - ProMED Mod.TG].

A U.S. State Department official said authorities have not yet established a connection between the 30 May 2019 deaths of 49-year-old CAD, and 63-year-old NEH, both of Prince George's County, MD, and the death on 25 May 2019 of 41-year-old MSW of Pennsylvania.

The FBI is providing Dominican law enforcement with "technical assistance with the toxicology reports," the State Department official said.

MSW had just checked into the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville, in the town of San Pedro de Macoris, and was taking pictures from her room balcony when she started to feel ill.

Less than 2 hours later, she was dead, local authorities said.

The bodies of CAD and HEH were found inside their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana after relatives grew concerned because they had not checked out of the resort.

The hotels are located next to each other on the island's southern coast, about 60 miles from the tourist-heavy Punta Cana area.

Dominican authorities initially did not run toxicology tests for MSW because there were no signs of violence, said Ramon Brito, a spokesman for the National Police's special tourism unit. After the Maryland couple was found, investigators ordered a set of tests to determine whether anything the 3 Americans consumed may have led to their deaths, Brito said.  [Byline: Arelis R. Hernandez]
Date: 31 May 2019
Source: 4 News [edited]

The Alachua County Health Department is warning residents that there are 12 confirmed cases of mumps, primarily from college students at the University of Florida.  "This is a little more than usual," says Steve Orlando, University of Florida spokesman.

Alachua County normally receives around 2 reported cases a year, and UF believes more students could be infected.  "So, it's curious because these are individuals who are vaccinated, and that's what we are seeing nationwide," says Paul Myers, Alachua County Health Department administrator.

Officials say it is still unclear why there has been an uptick with the virus. So far, the CDC shows 736 people have contracted mumps nationwide in 2019.

"The sharing of the utensils, sharing of the cups, sharing of the water bottles, you know it is a very common thing for students to share those things, and that's exactly the kind of thing that could lead to transmission," says Orlando.
Date: Sat 8 Jun 2019
Source: Business Standard [edited]

As many as 14 children have died due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in the district, while over a dozen are admitted in hospitals with high fever and other symptoms of the infection.

Sunil Shahi, Superintendent of Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), told ANI, "We have received 38 patients so far; most of them have a deficiency of glucose in their blood. Of these, 2 have also tested JE [Japanese encephalitis] positive; the overall casualty till now is 14."

Dr Gopal Sahni, head of Critical Care Unit, said, "When heat and humidity rise, the body's sweat cannot evaporate. The humidity level is over 50 per cent in the last few days. We have about 15 such children admitted in the hospital currently, and 89 such cases come regularly."

Encephalitis is a viral infection, which causes mild flu-like symptoms such as a fever or a headache.
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[Again, this year (2019), cases of AES and JE are appearing in north-western India. Of the 14 AES cases, 2 tested positive for JE. The aetiology of the remaining cases is not stated, but the majority are reported as hypoglycaemic. As noted previously, frequently, in reports of JE cases in India, acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) of undefined aetiology is often mentioned with JE cases that are a minority of those hospitalized.

The determination of the aetiology or aetiologies of AES has been confusing and elusive. Various etiological agents have been proposed in recent years as responsible for AES cases. AES has continued to be attributed to a variety of aetiologies, including Reye syndrome-like disease, possible enterovirus infection from polluted water, heatstroke, lychee fruit consumption, and scrub typhus (_Orientia tsutsugamushi_). Recently, scrub typhus has been implicated in many AES cases. A recent publication (reference below) states that dengue virus is one of the 3 most common agents identified in acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). Unfortunately, existing surveillance for AES does not include routine testing for dengue. Dengue accounts for 5% of AES cases in India, especially in the absence of laboratory evidence for other pathogens tested. Dengue should be added to the list of possible AES etiological agents.

Reference:
Vasanthapuram Ravi, Shafeeq Keeran Shahul Hameed, Anita Desai, Reeta Subramaniam Mani, Vijayalakshmi Reddy, et al.: Dengue virus is an under-recognised causative agent of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES): Results from a 4-year AES surveillance study of Japanese encephalitis in selected states of India. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2019. doi: <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2019.01.008>.

Maps of India:

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: